Bonsai is not always Art
Saying that bonsai is not always art is certainly a bold statement, but it is undoubtedly true. Without a doubt, bonsai artists will endeavor for artistic achievement in their trees, but what about the back-yard bonsaiist*? Yes, we have all heard this term coined up before. A back-yard bonsaiist is one who claims to grow bonsai simply for fun of it and at times does not let those pesky Japanese rules get in the way of their styling. Back-yard bonsaiists often deny that bonsai have any artistic value. We have all seen trees from a back-yard bonsaiist, but have any of us evaluated them artistically? If one is to examine just a few trees of this quality, he or she will quickly realize that every single one of these trees is artistically unacceptable. The pots are often too large, of the wrong design, and of the wrong color. The branch placement is incorrect, and the lines of the branches typically tell a contradictory story to that told by the line of the trunk.
So are a back-yard bonsaiist?s trees bad art, or are they even art at all? In an earlier thread, Andy Rutledge noted Christo?s ?art? work ( ). He mentioned that this is not art, but simply decoration. Could this not be the same for a back-yard bonsaiist?s trees? If one were to compare a back-yard bonsaiist?s trees with hedges (which a few people have done on occasion), would they not simply be considered to be house decorations just as hedges are? If a person who grows bonsai does not consider bonsai to be an art, they will not be creating bad art; they will be creating a decoration.
Now, do not get me wrong, I am not criticizing the back-yard bonsaiists. In fact, I have a high level of respect for them, primarily because this is the typical way that bonsai artists start out. But until these back-yard bonsaiists accept the fact that bonsai is an art, they will never produce a tree worthy of show.
*Note: Some may know the term back-yard bonsaiist as one who grows bonsai in their backyard. This, however, would include many bonsai atists who have accepted the fact that bonsai is an art. In this article, the term back-yard bonsaiist used in opposition to the term bonsai artist.